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Monday, July 18, 2011

Pirates and Martians

From the title of this entry, you might be thinking that I've got some idea for a Cowboys and Aliens knock-off, but no, I don't.  There's just two new movie trailers out that I want to talk about.

First up, The Pirates! Band of Misfits.  Finally!  It was about time that Aardman gave us another stop-motion animated epic!

Our story thus far:  Aardman Animation.  Legendary British animation studio.  They began gaining worldwide attention in the 1990s thanks to their superstar animator Nick Park and his creations Wallace and Gromit.  Apparently, back when Jeffery Katzenburg was still at Disney, he wanted Disney to enter into a distribution deal with Aardman, much like the original deal Disney had with Pixar.  Michael Eisner apparently didn't like that idea, though, so when Katzenburg left to become one of the founders of Dreamworks, entering into a deal with Aardman was one of his first goals.

The Dreamworks/Aardman deal produced 2000's Chicken Run (which I still think is one of the funniest animated films ever made), 2005's Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and 2006's Flushed Away, which was Aardman's first foray into computer animation.  After Flushed Away, Dreamworks decided to end their partnership with Aardman.  Aardman quickly found a new partner with Sony Studios, and they've been hard at work ever since.

The first film in the Aardman/Sony deal is the computer-animated Christmas film Arthur Christmas, coming out this December.  But the second one is the one I'm excited about, as it's Aardman's return to the stop-motion animation that made them famous, The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

Based on the Pirates! series of books by Gideon Dafoe, The Pirates! Band of Misfits is about a band of pirates voyaging across the seas to reach the Pirate of the Year competition.  Along the way, they do battle with fellow pirates, evade the forces of Queen Victoria, and even a young scientist by the name of Charles Darwin gets involved with their crew.

For the celebrity voice cast, Hugh Grant, in his first voice artist role, voices our hero, known only as the Pirate Captain.  Jeremy Piven and Selma Hayek voice two rival pirates, Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz, and the 10th Doctor himself, David Tennant, voices Darwin.

It's co-directed by Peter Lord (co-director of Chicken Run and director of countless Aardman shorts) and Jeff Newitt, a veteran Aardman animator.  It hits theatres March 30, 2012.

Now, the next trailer that's caught my eye, John Carter.  This is one that they've been trying to bring to theatres for a long, long time.

It's based on the epic series of books John Carter of Mars, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  You probably recognize him as the creator of Tarzan.  It's a series of science fiction novels that Burroughs wrote between the 1910s and the 1940s, and it's considered one of the most influential science fiction series of all time.  Hollywood's been trying to adapt it for years, but the sheer number of fantastic locations and alien life forms have long rendered the series unfilmable.  But, in this post-Star Wars prequel/Lord of the Rings/Avatar world, the unfilmable is quickly becoming filmable. 

The adventure series follows the adventures of John Carter, a soldier in the American Civil War who passes out in a cave one day, and wakes up magically transported to the planet Mars...or Barsoom, as the natives call it.  He finds a world at war, consisting of Red Martians, Green Martians, and the Tharks, which are 14 feet tall, have tusks and four arms. He also finds that, thanks to Barsoom's lighter gravity, he is granted super strength and the ability to leap long distances.

As I said, over the past 10 years, a lot of the unfilmable has become filmable, and the John Carter property has been passed around Hollywood quite a bit over the past decade.  In one unusual circumstance, Robert Rodriguiz was set to direct, with Internet movie news mogul Harry Knowles to produce. 

But the property finally made its way to Disney, and Disney decided to tackle it with gusto.  And again, I am very curious about this film because of who Disney chose to direct:  Andrew Stanton, the veteran Pixar animator who directed A Bug's Life, Finding Nemo, and Wall-E.  This will be Stanton's live-action directorial debut.  Indeed, because of Stanton's involvement, there was a rumor going around that John Carter would be the first live-action film to carry the Pixar label. 

The movie John Carter is largely based on the first novel in the series, entitled A Princess of Mars.  Taylor Kitsch, whom you may remember as Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, is playing John Carter.  Lynn Collins plays Dejah Thoris, a Red Martian and the princess of Mars in the title.  And Willem Dafoe plays Tars Tarkas, a Thark warrior who will be brought to life using the same performance capture technology that brought the Na'vi to life in Avatar.

John Carter hits theatres on March 9, 2012. 

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